Whether we realize it or not, we’re all security minded and safety-conscious to one degree. Most of us lock our door, bypass crime ridden neighborhoods, don’t unfurl billfolds in public, and stop mail and newspaper deliveries when we’re away on vacation. We also look first before we cross streets, drive defensively, and know how to dial 911.

Terrorism prevention and protection means adding a new set of procedures and routines to the list of precautions we already take. It’s easier said than done, however. Think of heart-attack victims. If they’re lucky enough to survive their first attack, they almost immediately become health-and fitness conscious. They start taking care of themselves by going on diets, losing weight, and watching what they eat. Some stop smoking and drinking, and many join health clubs and begin exercising regularly. The intriguing question is, how would these heart-attack victims have fared if they had followed this lifestyle in the first place? Many of them would, most probably have averted the early onset of heart disease.

Our personal health, safety, and security, in other words, begin in the mind. We want to build concentric rings of defense, which increase our security and safety by making it harder for terrorists to victimize you. Think of the ring as encompassing both the locations at which you spend a good deal of time and the activities you engage in that could bring you in contact with terrorists to victimize you. Then, it’s a matter of instituting security measures and changes in routines that will lessen your chances of falling prey to terror.

Know the Five Means of Staying Safe.

In general, there are five ways to stay safe: avoidance, prevention, escape, assistance and time. All of your pre-planning, your thinking, and your strategies should revolve around those five means of survival. Avoidance means not being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Prevention is the erection of barriers that protect you and your possessions. Escape is the recognition that you don’t have to take your fate lying down. Assistance requires knowledge of how and when to seek outside help. And time is that precious commodity that keeps you alive long enough for help to arrive.

Stay Away From Crowds.

That’s the single best piece of advice that anyone seeking to avoid terrorism can follow. Terrorists most often strike at crowded locations and events, such as shopping malls, large department stores, sporting events, dance clubs, historic landmarks, tourist spots, airports, commuter hubs, movie theaters, fashionable restaurants, bars, and trendy resorts. By avoiding these events and locations, you avoid the terrorists.

Think of Security As A Lock That Buys You Time.

Security, like a lock, can never be 100% perfect. It’s not meant to be. The purpose of security measures is to buy time to escape, get assistance, or wait for help to arrive. Once you drop the fictitious ideal of perfection, your imagination will be free to conceive of a security plan that’s unique to you and your loved ones.

Adopt Your Planning To Your Circumstances.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so adapt security measures to your situation. Put each contemplated security step in context. Ask yourself, why am I doing this? The answer should be—survival. So, again, engineer all of the security measures you take with the goals of avoidance, prevention, escape, getting help, or buying time.

Map Assorted Evacuation Routes.

Most local authorities have contingency plans for the evacuation of nearby residents and workers in the event, say, of an emergency at a hazardous chemicals facility or a nuclear power plant. Traffic flow would, supposedly, be directed away from the site. However, at least half the residents and workers within 10 miles of the facility would probably flee, creating chaos on the roads—particularly on highways and other major thoroughfares. So, ask local emergency managers for copies of official evacuation arteries and then review your road maps in search of alternative avenues of evacuation, routes likely to be less traveled in an emergency.

Don’t Return Home With A Fuel Tank That’s Less Than Half Full.

In an emergency evacuation because of, say, a chemical or nuclear attack, you may have to travel a long way to reach safety. The roads will, of course, be jammed, and traffic may crawl. The last thing you want to happen is to run out of gas. So, keep your fuel tank at least half full.

Gassing up before coming home will serve another, perhaps more important purpose: it will test your antiterrorism vigilance. Everyone has a tendency to let his guard down in times of peace and tranquility. Terrorists count on that. It may indeed be one reason why they often let considerable time elapse between attacks. Your gas gauge is an easy way to tell whether you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security—or just gotten lazy.

If you have young children, find out whether their schools have evacuation plans in place.

Local authorities have plans for the transportation of students, as well as children in day care, the hospitalized, and nursing home residents, in an emergency. Speak with school officials or teachers about the plans affecting your children and ask what steps you as a parent should take in an emergency evacuation of local schools. Find out, in particular, if students will be taken to a predetermined mass-care facility and whether you should plan on going there, too, in an emergency.

Treat Official Reassurances Circumspectly

In attempting to calm the public’s nerves and cover their own backsides, many government officials at times of crisis have offered unreliable reassurances about public health and safety. Look at how the anthrax outbreak was so mishandled at the start. Why, for instance, were congressional office buildings closed for decontamination but not the US Postal Service facilities that sorted and routed the tainted mail to Capitol Hill? Clearly, some public health officials were out of their depth. They offered advice that may have cost people their lives. So, take any reassurances made by government officials with a grain of salt. Be circumspect. If you find their reassurances hard to believe, don’t believe them.

Don’t Become Complacent, and Don’t Let Your Guard Down.

Immediately following the attacks of September 11 and the discovery of anthrax in the mail, everyone, everywhere, became anxious about personal safety and the safety of loved ones. As time went on and memories faded, people started getting “back to normal” in terms of commuting to work, shopping, traveling, and handling mail. It was important that people did this, because it showed that they wouldn’t be cowed by terrorism. There’s a downside to “normal,” however, and that is that people can become complacent. The danger of terrorism is real, and that’s something people all over the world mustn’t forget.


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